Making space for nature will help resilience

26 November 2020

Lack of diversity in nature is a risk for further global pandemics, the head of Scotland’s national nature agency NatureScot will warn in a keynote address later today.

Speaking at the SAGES 2020 online conference, Chief Executive Francesca Osowska, will set out the importance of making more space for nature to provide resilience from future pandemics.

Ahead of the conference, Ms Osowska said: “Experts have concluded that the same issues which cause biodiversity loss and climate change also increase the risk of pandemics.

“The increasing intensity of livestock farming, deforestation, crop monocultures, globalisation and large urban environments all make viral transference more likely and rapid once viruses enter human populations.”

The recent example of COVID-19 transferring from people to mink and back again in Denmark demonstrates these risks. The virus spreads rapidly in the high-density farmed mink population with the potential for rapid mutations.

Globally, wildlife is now more tightly compressed into smaller and more fragmented areas to make way for farming and forestry. 

Ms Osowska continued “Enhancing diversity and making space for nature is key to reducing the risk of further pandemics. 

“The same actions are essential in tackling the climate emergency.  Ecosystem restoration at sea, along with peatland and woodland locks in carbon.  A ‘Green Recovery’ from COVID-19 is an exceptional – and necessary - opportunity to transition to a net zero and nature-rich global economy.

“Through these actions the viruses, pests and diseases that are a natural part of life on Earth are also more likely to remain where they belong: in their wild host populations, rather than cause problems for humankind.” 


SAGES – the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience Environment and Society – is a partnership between the Universities of Aberdeen, Abertay, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Stirling, SAMS UHI, SUERC, UWS and the British Geological Survey, Scotland.

Further reading on pandemics and nature